The Basics of Hermit Crab Care

Hermit crabs are not exactly the low-maintenance pets they are often mistaken to be. In fact they require much more attention than most small animals. But this doesn't make them any less wonderful, in fact it makes them that much more rewarding. When bringing hermit crabs into your home, the first thing you need to realize is the fact that they are wild animals. Almost all hermit crabs sold in pet stores were taken from their wild habitat. As you can imagine this is very stressful. Through the entire process many hermit crabs pass away. Contrary to popular belief hermit crabs are not hardy animals and they are very susceptible to their environment. In order to live their full lifespan they need to be in an environment that closely imitates their natural surroundings. As their owner it is your responsibility to create the best possible life for your little creatures. And this is done by creating the best possible habitat.

The Absolute Necessities

Heat: In the wild hermit crabs reside in an area that has a relatively steady temperature near 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The best investment you can make on behalf of your hermit crab is a heater for their tank or terrarium as well as a temperature gauge. Around 78 degrees is adequate for most species of hermit crabs. Most heaters are very easy to use and stick to the side of the glass or slide underneath the terrarium. Use the thermometer to monitor the temperature and try to keep a steady warmth between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This will most closely match their natural environment.

Humidity: Although they have the name 'land hermit crabs', they do not breathe with lungs. Hermit crabs have modified gills that allow them to breathe air. But in order for that air to properly be processed by their body it needs humidity- or water. And so your tank should have enough water in the air to make it compatible with your hermit crabs breathing cycle. How is this achieved? Many ways. You can purchase a humidifier or fogger for your aquarium in the reptile section of your local pet store. You could purchase an air pump and bubbler from the aquarium section of your local pet store and have the air flow into a pool of water. Or you can simply add sponges to your tank and mist it with a spray bottle. The humidity should stay around 80 percent. A humidity gauge will help you monitor. You can learn more about creating proper humidity by reading the 'Keeping Your Crabitat Humid' article.

Sand/Coconut Substrate: Hermit crabs are diggers by nature. Sand is a natural particle that is absolutely beneficial to a hermit crabs well being. Sand can also be substituted with coconut substrate, both of which can be found at your local pet store. Under no circumstances should a hermit crab habitat be set up with gravel, potting soil, or gel. These are just not compatible with a hermit crabs natural behavior. And potting soil often has harmful additives that could have fatal effects. Sand or coconut substrate should be deep enough for your largest hermit crab to burrow completely under and cover his entire shell.

Shells: Hermit crabs do not grow their own shells. So as a hermit crab grows, naturally it needs to change from a smaller shell to a larger one. That's why hermit crabs need a selection of shells in their habitat ranging in sizes a bit larger to a bit smaller than the one it has currently made home. A variety of different kinds is best, as each hermit crab has it's own taste and will likely prefer a different style of shell than the other hermit crabs. Natural unpainted shells are highly recommended. Painted shells are often stricken with toxins from the paint that could be fatal to a hermit crab. Shells should have circular openings with smooth edges and be free of cracks or chips. Visit our article 'The Right Shell Check List' before you buy to get the break-down on buying the perfect shell selection.

Proper Food: Feeding hermit crabs can be a really fun experience, and experimenting with different foods is a great way to keep your crabs entertained. There are many commercial hermit crab foods on the market today. On the other hand, they aren't necessary. Hermit crabs are scavengers by nature and lovers of variety. Well-washed fresh fruits, vegetables, and unseasoned fish, poultry, and red meat are the best things to feed your hermit crabs. Avoid seasonings, pesticides, dairy, sugars, and pre-packaged foods. All-natural fresh foods are best. Bits of raw fish and cuts of vegetables and fruits will keep hermit crabs healthy and happy for years to come. To read about the ideal hermit crab diet read 'The Hermit Crab Diet' article here on Hermit Crab Cottage.

Saltwater: Hermit crabs are ocean dwellers, and naturally their bodies need a proper mixture of fresh and saltwater. You can purchase aquarium salt at a pet store and use the amount recommended for shrimp. Offer a bowl of saltwater deep enough for your largest hermit crab to fully submerge in. Make sure there is a way for your hermit crabs to climb out, for if they get stuck in the bowl they could easily drown. Although a drowning hermit crab is a rarity, they can survive under water for prolong periods, it's still best to provide proper access to land from the bowl of water. Never use table salt in an attempt to create saltwater for your hermit crabs!

Freshwater: Hermit crabs drink freshwater- just like humans! The freshwater provided for your hermit crabs should be relatively the same as saltwater. The bowl should be deep enough for the largest hermit crab to fully submerge with proper ways for the hermit crabs to climb out. Do not use chlorinated water, instead invest in a bottle of all-natural spring water. Even minuscule amounts of chlorine can be fatal to a hermit crab.

Friends: Yes, friends. Hermit crabs are social little creatures and would not be happy by themselves. Having a friend, if not more, is an absolutely necessity. No little hermit crab should be left alone. Let them have their own little family- or better yet a little colony!